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Author's profile photo Jean-Christophe PAZZAGLIA

Toward a new Research Information System – Personas (2/4)


Defining personas and getting to know them is of paramount importance to make a design thinking workshop efficient. Still in 2 days it will be an illusion to believe that we will be able to tackle the numerous stakeholders present in a typical research organization. To facilitate the workshop, we decided to define the organizational structure of a typical research organization and to ask colleagues that worked in the research area to sketch their character based on their own experience.

The next exercise in the research phase was to ask different participants to be interviewed identifying themselves to a subset of our different personas (shown in the picture on the right, please do not hesitate to send me a message if you are interested to discover the different personas – Isabel, Tom, Anita, Erika and Heinz). The two teams will then be facing two very different perspectives of the initial challenge that will force them to think about how to best solve it.

We will now present the 2 personas that were chosen by the participants.

Dr. Erika – 4Sure Project Leader – 37 y.o.

Erika is a senior researcher, within the first call of the EU H2020 framework she was the principal investigator of the proposal 4Sure that was awarded a grant of 6 M€ starting next month. Out of this grant, 800k€ are allocated to our research institute enabling to fund a team composed of Erika, Tom at 80% and two yet to be appointed PhD students for 42 months, the budget is split as follow 680k€ for  personal cost (180 admin / 500 research), 70k€ for travel and 50k€ for equipment.


For the first time, Erika will be the Project Coordinator and she is really excited about it. This includes both the scientific coordination and the financial and administrative coordination with the support of the local administration. She will chair the Project Coordination Committee (PCC), which will address high-level management and financial issues, and consists of the Site Leaders of the different project partners. She will coordinate the communication between the project partners and the European Commission, and coordinate tasks and optimize interaction between the different WPs. To this end, she will manage both a common distributed repository and communication platform that stores all project-related information, thereby ensuring the centralization of knowledge and reduction of information retrieval time, and the project Website that will also be used for the internal dissemination of work in progress and results, as well as for the dissemination of the project results to the scientific community and industry (this is done in collaboration with the dissemination WP).

Together with Tom, Erika is actively looking for brilliant PhD students that she will supervise. She is responsible for the project’s budget that they can spend for traveling, hiring developers/interns/students, equipment, participation in research events.

During the project duration she will travel twice+ per month to attend the PCC/WP/Review meetings, while as  technical coordinator she will also attend workshops, conferences and networking events to present project’s results.

Redefining the initial challenge

The interviews and the analyse of the Erika persona enabled to get a better idea on her motivation, tasks, constraints and daily concerns. These findings are summarized bellow:

  • Key Motivation
    • Reputation
    • Recognition
    • Publication of research results
    • Citations
    • Career progression
  • Core Tasks
    • Project Lead
    • Bugdet Information & Control
    • Research
  • Pain points
    • Same information to different stakeholders
    • Same information on different format
    • Want to know on the on-going spending
    • Finding information from different systems
  • Constraints
    • Limitation of fundings
    • Justification of spending
    • Info goes to funding body timely
    • Time to research
    • Teaching duties

The team took then Erika’s perspective and redefined the generic challenge as follow:

“How to provide and access the necessary information in the more intuitive and less time consuming manner to concentrate on scientific activities?” 

Let’s explore the solutions that the teams imagined for Erika …–the-erika-case-34

Prof. Heinz – Head of Institute – 53 y.o.

Since 2 years, Heinz is the head of a multidipliscinary research institute. Overall more than 500 people, including 400 researchers across 9 departments are performing  world-class research and the research community in the biomedical field believe that Heinz may become Nobel prize for the work he achieved 10 years ago on K+ channels.


Nowadays, Heinz is using his brilliant mind and his large network to further develop the research institute strongly encouraging collaboration  with local, regional, and global research ecosystems but also involving high level politicians and large companies to invest in research. More than 120 contracts are running concurrently spanning from large multi-yearly EU research projects to punctual bilateral collaboration with SMEs. Last year, the institute administrative and scientific  board approved Heinz’s mid-term strategy centered around the cross fertilization between research in IT, physics and biology to boost the adoption of new biomechanical devices (the Iphysbiolog department). While the effects on the visibility of the institutes was immediate with an interview on Wired and on different national newspapers and TV shows, Heinz is still spending a lot of energy to convince researchers to work together on this perspective that appears to them as too applied and is also causing some recruitment concerns. He is also obliged to lobby intensively funding organizations  since proposals in this field are too often crossing the boundaries of research programs.

While the institute is performing well, last year Heinz had to face several difficult situations: a 500k€ cost claim was rejected by the funding agencies since the expenses were not booked against the right project, after one year the Iphysbiolog department was under scrutiny of the national safety agency and had to align its practice to the biology department, finally a dispute with an industrial partners about the usage of some open-source (?!?) software in one of the deliverables forbidding the commercialization of the results.

While Heinz is still thrilled to develop the institute, last year problems made evident that research and innovation excellence are not (unfortunately !) the only criteria that he should dig into to insure the long term sustainability of the institute and while he surely trust the research and admin staff, he would like to have a better idea about the funding pipelines, the current staff utilization, the impact of hiring new staff or the consequence of salary increase both from a budget but also from an attrition perspective.

All this activity of lobbying, projects and research imposed him to travel 50+% of the time and he did not count the number of ‘critical’ decisions he had to take them while at the airport. However, while at the institute, Heinz manages to dedicate every Friday afternoon to follow the seminars of young researchers from his former research department.

Redefining the initial challenge

The interviews and the analyse of the Heinz persona enabled to get a better idea on his motivation, tasks, constraints and daily concerns. These findings are summarized bellow:

  • Key Motivation
    • Becoming World Class Research institution
    • Excellence in University Ranking (Shanghai, ERC…)
    • Prestige
  • Core Tasks
    • Controls
    • Strategic KPIs
    • Networking Lobbying
    • Reporting to the board
  • Pain points
    • Distance from the field / Disconnection
    • Limited Time
    • Researchers Resistance
    • Forecast, Risks and uncertainty
    • Lack of Information / Poor quality
  • Constraints
    • Legal Aspects (law, regulation, …)
    • Access for information
    • Money / Staffing / Infrastructure

The team took then Heinz’s perspective and redefined the generic challenge as follow:

How to facilitate the access to accurate information and pertinent measures  to take on the spot decision?” 

Our next blog explores the solution that the team imagined for Erika …–the-erika-case-34

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      Author's profile photo Jean-Christophe PAZZAGLIA
      Jean-Christophe PAZZAGLIA
      Blog Post Author

      If you are interested I can send you the ppt with the different personas.